Pork Production Makes a Comeback

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

Before April, few could imagine a supply chain shock where U.S. pork production could fall by nearly half yet climb back to above prior-year levels a couple months later, says Will Sawyer, lead economist, animal protein, with CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange.

Pork production in the last week of the quarter was up more than 10% above the same week a year ago, Sawyer writes in CoBank’s latest quarterly report, as the industry works through the backlog of hogs. 

Nearly 3 million pigs that were supposed to come to market in the second quarter did not, as plants trimmed capacity amid shutdowns and slowdowns related to the pandemic, the report says. 

“Unfortunately, we know that some of the pigs were euthanized, but pork producers found ways to hold back some of their livestock. How many of those ‘under-processed’ pigs will come to market this summer is still anyone’s guess, but we know that the second quarter’s supply chain disruptions will affect pork supplies later in 2020 and create long-term implications for producers beyond that,” Sawyer notes in the report. 

Second-quarter pork exports were strong even though the shipment pace slowed down a bit from the first quarter. CoBank estimates U.S. pork exports were up 20% in the quarter, an increase driven almost entirely by shipments to China, the report says.

China continues to work at rebuilding its hog herd after the deadly African swine fever (ASF) wiped out more than half of its pork supply in 2018 and 2019. However, animal protein shortages in China and Southeast Asia remain. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has dealt an economically devastating hand to nearly the whole country, metro and non-metro alike,” Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division, says in the report. “But economic recovery may now favor rural communities for the first time in many years.”

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Production Disruptions Slow May Exports of Beef, Pork